La justicia británica ha declarado inocente al 2º Oficial del Pride of Bilbao en el caso del yate Ouzo. El informe del MAIB sobre este caso apuntaba a que el Ouzo naufragó por el aguaje del ferry o porque este le abordo. En cualquier caso, la investigación del MCA deja claro para aquellos que aun no lo tienen, que muchos yates y veleros no se ven en los radares y que la estela puede llevar a más de uno al fondo. Como decía aquel: “o el barco chico se aparta del grande o el grande lo aparta”.

Del LLoyds List

THE Pride of Bilbao second mate, Michael Hubble, was cleared yesterday of remaining charges brought against him under the Merchant Shipping Act over the deaths of the three crew of the yacht Ouzo last year.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court, who had spent nearly a week to reach a not guilty verdict on three counts ofmanslaughter against Mr Hubble, failedto agree on a verdict on the further charges after more than 30 hours of deliberation.

The prosecution decided it was not in the public interest to go for a retrial on the remaining charges, and the judge ordered that Mr Hubble be found not guilty.

Mr Hubble had denied all the charges laid against him.

James Meaby, Rupert Saunders and Jason Downer drowned after the Ouzo sank and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch report released in April this year said it was of the “firm opinion” that the Pride of Bilbao had either collided with the Ouzo or “passed so close that she had been swamped or capsized by the vessel’s wash”.

Commenting on the verdict, P&O; said yesterday that the company had co-operated fully with the police and the maritime authorities throughout the investigation and “continues to be of the opinion that, based on the evidence, the Pride of Bilbao was not responsible for the sad loss of life arising from the unexplained sinking of the yacht Ouzo.”

The ferry company would not comment on the fact that their statement appeared to be contradicting the findings of the MAIB report.

P&O; produced five fleet directives following the incident, which were listed in the report and which covered keeping a proper lookout, radar operating procedure, calling the master, familiarisation with bridge equipment, and maintaining situational awareness while taking avoiding action.

MAIB chief inspector of marine accidents, Stephen Meyer, said: “The MAIB has reviewed its analysis in the light of the theories put forward by the defence at the trial and finds nothing to alter its assessment of the accident.”

Maritime and Coastguard Agency head of enforcement, Jeremy Smart, said the case had involved a lot of evidence and expert opinion and unfortunately the jury had not been able to reach agreement.

While the Crown Prosecution Service had felt the evidence was strong enough to warrant a manslaughter prosecution, the jury did not feel the the test of “beyond reasonable doubt” had been reached.

Recommendations to the MCA in the MAIB report include eliminating the use of photochromic lenses on UK-registered ships, and dealing with the issue of the ineffectiveness of many radar reflectors and the inability of ships’ radars to detect small yachts.

The MCA, in conjunction with the Royal Yachting Association and QinetiQ Funtington, is carrying out research on the radar issues, which will then be presented to the IMO for action, Mr Smart said.

The officers’ union Nautilus said that the case had raised serious questions about safety at sea and highlighted a number of issues that needed to be addressed by the authorities.

“There is extreme concern amongst our members about the potential dangers posed by large numbers of yachts and pleasure craft operating in and around busy shipping lanes like the Solent, and an incident like this could occur at any time,” the union said.

The official investigation into the loss of the Ouzo had highlighted “serious shortcomings in the adequacy of navigation equipment.

“There is now extensive evidence that the standards of lights and radar reflectors fitted to many yachts are simply not good enough,” it said.

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